Book Review: The Searchers

“The Searchers” is a 1954 novel by Alan Le May, though the story is much better known through the 1956 movie version starring John Wayne.

The story is harsh and stark, humorless and relentless throughout. A young girl is kidnapped by Comanches — the only survivor as her family is wiped out — after being brutally tortured. Two men, for reasons of their own, spend more than five years looking for her. Eventually their own people turn their backs on them, dismissing them as crazed. They are charged with crimes in their home state of Texas, so now have to deal with the Texas rangers, as well as the Comanches, other Indian tribes and nature, which is particularly harsh on the open plains in the winter.

But they never give up, tracking down every lead and turning their quest to save young Debbie into a lifestyle, though they are rarely given even a glimmer of hope.

There are passages throughout the book that are brilliant and well worth reading and it’s easy to see why “The Searchers” has been carried in such high esteem for so long by so many Western fans. However, I have to say, I believe it is an excellent 200-page book, crammed into 300 pages. I believe the book would have benefitted greatly by eliminating all, or at least most of, the repetitive middle 100 pages. That being said, I’m still glad I tackled it. Now, he says with chagrin, off to watch the movie for the first time.


Three horseshoes.

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